Tough new GMC rules

By Robin Stride

Doctors fear workload pressures could expose them to falling foul of new GMC ethical standards guidance due to the time needed to prepare.

They voiced concerns about digesting and implementing new standards setting out what it means to be a good doctor in a survey by the Medical Defence Union (MDU).

As reported on Independent Pract­itioner Today’s news section, a major revision of the Council’s core guidance Good Medical Practice has been published following a consultation last year.

But it has emerged that, based on the draft guidance, only 15% were confident the new standards could be delivered in their work environment.

Seven-in-ten doctors (68%) said they were unsure about this and nearly one in five (17%) felt this could not be done.

The MDU said: ‘Crucially, only half (49%) were confident they would have time to fully absorb the new standards before they are implemented, with seven in ten (69%) saying they would have to read the guidance in their own time outside of work.’

Its survey of 610 doctors, mostly consultants and GPs, found 96% had made use of the current standards and 62% found them helpful in knowing what was expected of them. The new guidance takes effect from 30 January 2024.

Dr Udvitha Nandasoma

Dr Udvitha Nandasoma, head of MDU advisory services, said: ‘Being a doctor is a challenging career and, too often, the challenges facing independent practitioners can be underestimated. 

Time needed

‘That’s why we have been strongly calling for the maximum amount of time to be given so doctors can digest this guidance and consider what impact it may have on their practice. We are pleased the GMC has listened, and given five months.’ 

But the MDU warned doctors would still be challenged to read and absorb the revised standards over the busy winter months on top of their daily duties and responsibilities to patients.

Dr Caroline Fryar

Director of medical services Dr Caroline Fryar said: ‘Doctors know how important the guidance is and need time to understand and familiarise themselves with the changes being made. 

‘The standards have been substantially revised for the first time in a decade. We are calling on employers to ensure they give medical professionals time to digest it and the GMC to do all they can to make sure doctors can easily understand the main changes. 

‘Doctors shouldn’t be getting homework at a time when they are already working incredibly hard, around the clock, to deliver safe and effective patient care.’

Civica Medical Billing

She added: ‘There is much at stake for doctors, as failing to follow the standards could lead to a fitness-to-practise investigation, something nearly half of those responding to our survey (43%) were concerned about.   

‘For our part, we are doing everything we can to make sure doctors are aware of what this means for them and for patients. We have an extensive educational programme to support understanding of GMC guidance and will be focusing on Good Medical Practice.’

A bespoke webinar series is planned for coming months.

The top issues doctors consult Good Medical Practice about are:

  1. Patient consent or capacity to make a decision – 49%;
  2. Reflecting on a complaint, claim or incident – 40%;
  3. Whether to protect confidential information or disclose it in the public interest – 39%;
  4. Raising concerns about a colleague, system or resource – 31%;
  5. Prescribing – 15%.

Mr Tim Mitchell

Mr Tim Mitchell, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, welcomed specific Good Medical Practice guidance on preventing bullying and sexual harassment. 

He said: ‘There is no place for these abhorrent behaviours in UK medicine and they bring shame to the profession. We need to be creating a work environment where every person feels welcome, safe and protected. The GMC’s new standards send a strong message to the profession that these behaviours will not be tolerated.’ 

The college is reviewing its own core standards document Good Surgical Practice to reflect changes to the GMC’s guidelines.

Good Medical Practice is available on the GMC’s website.